The Brain’s Lymphatic System
Hippocrates first gave mention of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes in 400 BC (That guy had to be communicating with aliens or something.) The next description of the lymphatic system was by Eustachius in the 1500s.5
In 2015 it was discovered that the lymphatic system extended into the brain.
On April 28, 2021 the NIH released research which found the brains lymphatic system can drain the amyloid-beta plaque that accumulates in the brains of those living with Alzheimer’s.1 So, think about what that means in terms of prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease? The lymphatic system is made up of vessels which run alongside blood vessels and which carry immune cells, waste, bacteria and toxins to lymph nodes. Lymphatic vessels extend into the brain’s meninges, which are membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The waste that gets pumped through the lymph nodes is excreted by means of sweat, feces, urine as well as through the liver and kidneys.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) development is a multi-faceted. During my previous research in 2016, I connected high blood sugar and diabetes as one of the associative factors that can lead to the development of AD. We know now that chronically high blood sugar can constrict blood vessels leading to poor blood flow in the brain & body; causing atrophy of the hippocampus and can stiffening arteries.
Insulin is responsible for degrading the plaque build up in the brain
In AD there are usually two types of proteins (plaque) that can build up in the brain, Tau proteins and Amyloid-beta proteins. Insulin is the hormone that is supposed to manage your blood sugar, but it also patrols & degrades tau protein build-up in your brain. When you are constantly eating sugar, and not exercising to burn off the excess sugar, the proteins can build up. Sleep is another area where proteins get degraded and cleared out of the brain as well!
In this most recent study researchers found that the brain’s lymphatic drainage system, which removes cellular debris and other waste, plays an important part in amyloid-beta protein accumulation. A 2018 NIA-supported study showed a link between impaired lymphatic vessels and increased amyloid-beta deposits in the brains of aging mice, suggesting these vessels could play a role in age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.
“For this new study, the research team sought to determine whether changing how well the lymphatic drainage works in the brain could affect the levels of amyloid-beta and the success of antibody treatments that target amyloid-beta. Using a mouse model of early-onset Alzheimer’s, researchers removed some of the lymphatic vessels in the brains of one group of mice. Mice with less functional lymphatic systems had greater buildup of amyloid-beta plaques and of other immune cells that cause inflammation, which is another factor in Alzheimer’s pathology.”
“These findings suggest that supporting the meningeal lymphatic system in people with Alzheimer’s — and starting treatment early in the disease, when this system is more intact — could lead to better outcomes.”
How To Optimize Your Lymphatic Drainage:
In the 1800s Dr. Andrew Still, DO proposed the initial principles of lymphatic drainage. He was also the “father” of Osteopathic Medicine. His principles are still widely used today and even more evolved. (Read into it if it interests you, it’ll make you want to run out and get worked on by a Doc of Osteopathy! This is what I am going back to school to become.)
The concepts of Lymphatic Drainage are: 1) stimulating the lymphatic system via an increase in lymph circulation, 2) expediting the removal of biochemical wastes from body tissues, 3) enhancing body fluid dynamics, thereby reducing swelling/edema, and 4) decreasing sympathetic nervous system responses (fight or flight stress response) while increasing parasympathetic nervous responses (rest, relax, digest).2 The blood and lymphatic systems are the two major circulatory systems in our body.4
- Lymphatic massage: you can have it done to you by a professional who is skilled in the techniques. Lymphatic massage is light and goes with the flow of the lymphatic system. I’ve had it done a few times for fun and I was shocked two days later I woke up with a sore throat and my glands in my neck were swollen. But it passed by the end of the day. My massage therapist had found that I had lymphatic congestion on one side of my body more than the other and moving it around can sometimes cause flu like symptoms that pass quickly. It’s beneficial for edema, pain/musculoskeletal injuries (used in sports medicine), lymphoma, swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, neck or groin. Also beneficial if you are prone to a lot of mucus or phlegm.
- I use Jennifer Teich: firstname.lastname@example.org 954-309-6047
- Look to youtube videos on how to do lymphatic massage on yourself.
- On Instagram: @OrganicOlivia has an excellent video on how to do this
- Dry Skin Brushing: another useful method for moving the lymphatic waste
2. Foods: certain foods are common allergens in the majority of people. Food allergies can cause more congestion, inflammation, mucus due to the release of histamines. According to my massage therapist she can feel an increase in lymph congestion when her clients eat dairy, butter, cheese, milk, wheat/gluten and sugary foods/pastries/cookies/cake. Also oils that are more inflammatory such as hydrogenated oils, trans-fats, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, soy bean oil, and vegetable oil/vegetable shortening.
- Opt for reducing your allergies and sensitivities with NAET treatments
- Use anti-inflammatory oils: Avocado oil, salmon, fish oil, olive oil, coconut oil, Flaxseed oil, walnut oil. Cooking oils at high temperatures can cause oils to become more inflammatory, so be sure to use avocado oil and coconut oil for high heat cooking. Olive oil for dressings, not high heat. Walnut oil is ideal for low to medium heat cooking or baking.
- Fruits & Vegetables: Nothing new here, we all know at this point that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides phytonutrients, fiber, micronutrients and antioxidants that do good things for every area of our bodily systems.
- High Fat Diet: One study found that a high fat diet caused a functional impairment of the lymphatic vessels and diminished the stimulation of the lymphatic system. Excess body fat was also found to impair the lymphatic system.6 (Note: this study was performed in mice who were fed high fat “chow.” The constituents of the high fat chow were not disclosed– the results may not apply to humans and the ketogenic diet exactly the same way. Or maybe it could?)
3. Physical Movement & Exercise: lack of exercise and movement is one of the biggest reasons for lymphatic congestion. Your lymphatic system is only able to pump the waste around with when you move your body.
- Jumping around, using a trampoline (also called a rebounder), walking, and exercising to the point of sweating is excellent for stimulating the lymph.
- Sauna: sweating in a sauna for 19 minutes assists your body in excreting toxins, heavy metals, mycotoxins and general waste. To read more about the benefits of sauna use: https://www.thehealthymelissa.com/sauna-bathing-decreases-cancer-all-heart-disease-by-40-extends-life-span/?v=1d20b5ff1ee9
- Water goals: Aim to drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water each day. Example: If you weight 100 lbs you would want to drink 50 ounces of water.
5. Chemicals: Overexposure to chemicals in deodorants, makeup, cleaning supplies, and potentially in the environment of buildings can cause lymph congestion.
- Antiperspirants: using deodorants that are “clinical strength,”or ones that contain parabens, aluminum can increase risk of not only Alzheimer’s Disease, but they prevent your lymph nodes in your armpits from detoxifying. The odds of developing Alzheimer’s Disease with the use of aluminum containing deodorants was associated with more frequent use of those deodorants.3
- i. Many brands have jumped on the aluminum free band wagon. I recommend using MOVE by @healthjunkiejess: https://healthjunkiejess.bigcartel.com/ – Her deodorant contains Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Shea Butter, Non-GMO Baking Soda, Arrowroot powder, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil. It REALLY WORKS.
- Cleaning Chemicals: With the pandemic of 2020 we were pushed to use Lysol, sanitizer and clean like never before. Stores are constantly sanitizing doors and carts. Gyms use Terg-O-cide on their machines. Our nation has been bombarded with chemicals for over a year now and I feel its eventually going to take some toll on our bodies.
- ii. Choose Non-Toxic cleaning products: I recommend Branch Basics cleaning supplies. They are scentless, so I add some essential oils for fragrance to it. They have Laundry detergent, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, window cleaner, all purpose cleaner. The list goes on
- Get $10 off with this code: http://branchbasics.refr.cc/thehealthymelissa
- v. Pesticides: In the last couple of years the weed killer RoundUp was found to cause Lymphoma — a cancer of the lymphatic system. Always aim to choose NON-GMO foods and ORGANIC fruits/veg/meats.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the ways you can improve your lymphatic drainage & keep your brain, body and life as healthy as possible!
- Brain’s waste removal system may offer path to better outcomes in Alzheimer’s therapy | National Institutes of Health (NIH)